Saints' Development Squad secured a solid 2-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers in Monday’s clash at the County Ground.
A first-half volley courtesy of Sam McQueen rewarded Saints for their early domination and preceded several moments where Southampton could have extended the goal margin.
Eventually, Saints got the second they craved to hand them a two-goal cushion late into the encounter when Aaron Martin swept in from inside the six-yard box after Omar Rowe’s corner ricocheted off the post.
Saints began in breathtaking fashion and tested Whites ‘keeper Harry Campbell inside the first two minutes with a one-on-one opportunity.
Sam Gallagher controlled the ball to then spin and slide it through accurately to Jake Sinclair, whose side-footed shot just inside the box was prevented by the onrushing Bolton custodian.
Southampton continued to press, Harrison Reed testing Campbell with a 25-yard effort that was palmed over the crossbar before McQueen came agonisingly close to handing the visitors the lead.
Jack Stephens’ cross soared past Gallagher and fizzed to the feet of the unsuspecting McQueen, who diverted the ball narrowly wide.
A fairly tame Zach Clough effort from 25 yards that Cody Cropper caught with ease was sandwiched by more Saints domination which resulted in a deserved goal 25 minutes in.
After mounting pressure from Southampton, the hosts could only clear the ball as far as MCQUEEN, who stood 25 yards from goal. The winger controlled the ball well with his chest before driving a volley that the palm of Campbell failed to fully stop as it dribbled over the line.
A swerving 30-yard attempt from the slightly unlikely source of Matt Targett was destined for the top corner until Campbell tipped it over, before Sinclair was gifted possession cheaply by Bolton for a much more inviting chance.
The ball was surprisingly played straight to the feet of the forward in the box, whose powerful shot deflected marginally wide.
Saints’ defenders seemed were evidently eager to foray forward in searching for rare goals for themselves, Turnbull the next to follow with a bursting run forward, a one-two pass and a low shot that was blocked by Campbell before Bolton frantically cleared the danger.
The visitors continued to search for a two-goal cushion but to no avail as Bolton managed to close out the half just one goal down.
HALF-TIME: BOLTON WANDERERS U21s 0-1 SOUTHAMPTON U21s
Saints began the second half with the same desire as the first, the ball being played up to Sinclair inside the 48th minute for a long-range hit that was scooped over.
McQueen’s early eagerness to find the net was mirrored in the second period as a quick passing exchange teed him up for a right-footed shot from a tight angle that Campbell parried away.
The Whites almost enjoyed an extreme stroke of luck when Chris Lester nearly inadvertently found the net from the right flank. The full-back whipped in a hopeful cross that was floating towards Cody Cropper’s far corner until the American glanced it off-target.
With just over 20 minutes remaining, Sinclair’s perseverance nearly paid dividends. The youngster raced onto a long ball over the Bolton backline and battled to latch onto it in the box before it got away from him slightly as he attempted to prod it past Campbell, allowing the latter to smother the ball.
Lester charged forward to meet a cross with a weak, left-footed effort straight into Cropper’s grasp before Saints effectively secured the points shortly after through MARTIN.
Rowe’s corner deflected onto the post and ricocheted into the path of the defender, who swiftly swept the ball home from point-blank range to ensure Southampton left the County Ground with all three points.
FULL-TIME: BOLTON WANDERERS U21s 0-2 SOUTHAMPTON U21s
Bolton Wanderers: Harry Campbell, Chris Lester, Rob Holding, Oscar Threlkeld, Cian Bolger, Josh Vela, Sanmi Odelusi (Andy Kellett 67), Luke Woodland (Laste Dombaxe 75), Conor Wilkinson, Zach Clough, Rob Hall (Tom Youngs 61). Unused substitutes: Jay Lynch, Aaron Knight, Tom Walker.
Southampton: Cody Cropper, Jack Stephens, Aaron Martin, Jordan Turnbull, Matt Targett, Lloyd Isgrove, Dominic Gape, Harrison Reed, Sam McQueen (Omar Rowe 61), Jake Sinclair (Corby Moore 81), Sam Gallagher. Unused substitutes: Chris Johns, Matt Young, Andy Robinson.